A national social enterprise, run by a former elite athlete and an award winning football coach, is on a mission to get kids fit through sport and education by working with disengaged teens, the differently abled and youths of all abilities.
Sport Works offers qualifications in Sport and Exercise coaching for young people and adults, as well as continuous professional development opportunities for schools and teachers to place PE at the heart of pupil development. Since its launch in 2009, Sport Works has expanded from its Newcastle head office to offer sport based education to the whole of the UK, working with clients such as Sport England and The Prince’s Trust.
The social enterprise has been engaging young people through its educational sport mentoring programmes since 2009, and works with around 2000 young people each year. Recently the organisation has expanded its services to offer the government backed Traineeships in Sport programme and has successfully delivered 30 qualifications so far.
The traineeship is a 10 to 15 week course targeted at any 16 to 24 year olds who wish to access the programme, including those not already in education or training (NEET). It’s designed to bridge the gap between education and apprenticeships or other FE or higher education qualifications.
With many young people failing to get a job through lack of experience or being unable to relate to classroom teaching, Sport Works aims to re-engage youths by delivering an education and training programme with work experience that is focused on giving young people the skills and experience that employers are looking for. At its core is work preparation training, English and Maths for those who need it, and a high quality work experience placement.
Neil Cameron, managing director at Sports Works, said: “It’s about changing individuals perceptions of themselves because until you can instil self-belief you will never change the outcome.
“We simply want to improve outcomes in young people and this is something that can require a very different approach for different people. Whether it’s helping somebody who lives with disability have a better standard of living or someone else from a deprived background gain a qualification they wouldn’t have previously considered possible, then that is our goal.
“We work with local authorities, schools, community groups anyone in fact who requires support for young people who may be on the wrong path and need to
recalibrate. For them sport educational programmes are a fantastic way to engage,
providing a level of focus that has perhaps been lost in the more traditional
Neil has competed alongside long jump champion Chris Tomlinson and had the same coach as Jonathan Edwards. He became a sport science lecturer at the tender age of 21 and soon after became an elite performance manager for England Athletics at Gateshead International Stadium.
He heads up a 15 strong team of committed qualified sport trainers who are set to
deliver government traineeships as part of their overall educational sports programme offering.
Neil recruited operations manager Jamie Cairns, a highly decorated youth team
football coach from Gateshead who received a national award for coaching from
World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst and a £10,000 cheque on behalf of his then club, Rutherford AFC, from Newcastle United’s Stephen Taylor as part of becoming a Nike Ambassador – all whilst still a teenager.
Jamie explains how they deliver the traineeships: “Participants need to do a minimum of 100 hours of work experience, although we like to give them more, roughly 150-200 hours. They do 50 hours for each functional skill, 30 hours for a sports qualification and 20 hours for employability skills.
“We try and keep it varied, so the kids never know what they’re doing each day. We’ve found that if you say ‘we’re doing maths and English on a Thursday’, they’re not going to turn up on a Thursday.”
Michael Myers is a personal adviser for Newcastle City Council’s Connexions Service, which provides impartial and independent support and careers guidance for young people, particularly those who may be facing difficulties in their lives. He has had seen first had the affect Sport Works has had on some of his clients.
“Sport Works has been able to reach out to our most challenging young people and has made a real difference. The mentoring and experience with coaching the individual that the Sport Works staff have really seems to create a bridge between where they are and where they want to be.
“Often when young people are disaffected, for example if they have had a troubled upbringing, they can have difficulty dealing with their emotions because they can’t see past their own problems. Sport Works enables them to look forward by getting them to talk about their interests in sport and using that as the catalyst for change. I’ve seen it happen.”
Kieran, 18, from West Denton demonstrates Sport Works is sometimes
simply about helping gifted young people to find an opportunity for a career.
Kieran said: “I first came into contact with Sport Works and with Jamie through One Point Services in County Durham (a young people’s advice centre run by Durham County Council). I’ve always been interested, in sport, I went to Consett Academy
but hadn’t really thought further than that.
“I was advised to speak to Sport Works and soon I was picking up a lot from them in terms of advice about qualifications and I trained as an under 7 football coach, took coaching sessions for children with disability and was given a lot of school holiday work experience; I would’ve struggled to get this from anywhere else.”
As a result Kieran has now achieved a Level 2 Sport Leadership qualification, achieved a Boccia award for his work with disabled young people and is now working toward a sports coaching foundation degree at Newcastle College.
“I found working with those with a disability and others who need greater support and encouragement, requires a lot of one to one work to make sure they can get the most from the sessions. It’s important to bring people with you, introduce them
and get them involved otherwise they’ll be bored and lose interest.”
Kieran said: “Thanks to the support I’ve received I’m now well on the way to having a career in sport after only couple of years, and this when only two years ago I had the vaguest idea of how I was going to achieve this.”
Jamie said: “Kieran has always shown a keen interest in finding out more and we
have simply advised him on how he could progress.
“The hard yards have come from him, delivering physical activity sessions at the same time as taking sport leadership qualifications. It’s a lot for young person to take on, but Kieran has always been highly motivated and it was no surprise when he passed his Level 2 in Sport Leadership and progressed to a university course. He has a very bright future.”
Sport Works was launched in the North East and has rolled out a number of franchises across the country.